In this weeks סדרה we are told[i] how יעקב approaches עשו with his two wives, two maidservants and his eleven children. The מדרש[ii] [partially quoted in רש"י] asks why the פסוק makes no mention of דינה? The מדרש explains that יעקב hid her in a box, so that עשו would not see her and want to take her as a wife. The מדרש says that on יעקב’s actions Hashem said the פסוק[iii]; "למס מרעהו חסד" – “he withholds from his friend kindness”.
What was the חסד that יעקב held back from עשו? רש"י[iv] explains that if he had allowed him to marry her, then maybe she could have influenced him to be חוזר בתשובה. The מדרש continues that Hashem said to יעקב, “because you didn’t want to marry her to someone who was at least circumcised, she will be abused by someone who isn’t even circumcised”.
Hence the immediate פרשה following the meeting of יעקב with עשו is the פרשה where דינה is violated by שכם.
The Alter of Slabodka[v] explains that we see from here how severe it is to even hold back from doing חסד to another person. If already with someone like עשו who was on his way to kill יעקב we see that one should still do חסד to him, how much more so with regular people who are in need of a good turn. [It goes without saying that when the מדרש criticizes the אבות הקדושים it is only relative to their high level, as it says[vi], “Hashem is critical on צדיקים even on the difference of a hairsbreadth”].
The real problem asks The Alter is that surely יעקב had a good חשבון why he didn’t want his daughter to marry the wicked עשו? The גמ'[vii] says explicitly about someone who marries their daughter off to a עם הארץ that it is like tying her up and putting her in front of a lion! עשו wasn’t just a regular עם הארץ, he was a רשע גמור.
Furthermore it was probably אסור for יעקב to let her marry עשו. Because as much as he was מחוייב to do חסד to his brother עשו and try and be מקרב him, so too he had to do חסד to his daughter and not let her be taken by the רשע. If יעקב was totally justified in what he did, why then [even on his level] was anything wrong that he got punished?
The Alter explains that it must be that the action of יעקב was not wrong rather his mindset. Yes, he was correct by hiding her in a box, but he should have; on his level, been pained over the fact that he couldn’t be מקרב his wicked brother. The fact that it didn’t ache him that he wasn’t able to let his daughter marry עשו, was a טענה against him. The Alter adds that of course יעקב agonized over not giving her, but on his level he should have been more aggrieved.
Even if we aren’t בפועל doing קירוב, or any other form of חסד then at least be pained for those people who are in need of your help.
R’ Shimon Schwab זצ"ל has a beautiful piece[viii] where he explains why, when יעקב and עשו met they both cried. He explains that עשו cried when he saw יעקב with his family because he was saddened at what he could have become. יעקב cried also for the same reason, he saw his brother and realized how he had wasted all his potential, how sad.
We see from יעקב’s crying that he was very much pained over the fact that עשו had wasted his life away. How incredibly minute must have been the bit of extra pain that he should have had when he couldn’t give דינה to try and help him? How saddened must we be when we see people who are astray from Yiddishkeit. The least we should do is to feel upset when we realize that we cannot help them.
[i] בראשית לב:כג
[ii] בראשית רבה עו:ט
[iii] איוב ו:יד
[iv] רש"י בראשית לב:כג ד"ה ואת אחד עשר ילדיו.
[v] אור הצפון פרק מניעת חסד.
[vi] בבא קמא נ.
[vii] פסחים מט:
[viii] בספרו מעיין בית השואבה. וע"ע בעמק דבר.